Critical Paper Re Do

  • April 2020
  • PDF

This document was uploaded by user and they confirmed that they have the permission to share it. If you are author or own the copyright of this book, please report to us by using this DMCA report form. Report DMCA


Download & View Critical Paper Re Do as PDF for free.

More details

  • Words: 2,156
  • Pages: 8
Emily Mullins ENG 308 Critical Interpretations Paper 4-15-09

Psychoanalysis of Love and Sexuality in The Perks of Being a Wallflower Charlie, the letter-writer and first-person narrator in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a keen observer of human nature. He deals with his own deeply engrained set of psychologic issues that he also has trouble defining. Most of Charlie's problems stem from a trauma readers and Charlie do not realize nor understand until the end of the novel; this trauma is one of sexual molestation, loss, love and misinterpreted intimacy. The psychoanalytic aspects of this novel seem to often find their way back to a sexual and psychological experience in some way. Lois Tyson, author of Critical Theory Today, remarks that "our sexuality is part and parcel of our identity" and this identity has a close connection to our sexual identity (Tyson 24). She also mentions that "the origin of our sexual being is in the nature of the affirmation or disruption of our sense of self that occurs in childhood" (Tyson 24). Both in life, and in this novel by Stephen Chbosky, an honest depiction of a hyperbolized life experience, sexuality is one of the most consistent and clearest measures of our general psychological state. Charlie has difficulty comprehending and defining the sexual relationships he witnesses and experiences, whether they involve love, friendship, or both. The relationships he observes and participates in aids readers in being able to see into Charlie’s inner dilemmas and core issues, as well as those readers are perhaps dealing with in their own lives.

Chbosky's novel covers different forms of sexuality including homosexuality, physical abuse in relationships, rape, masturbation, molestation, and the psychological ramifications of these experiences on Charlie and the other characters he observes from his position as a wallflower. Charlie has difficulty defining and separating love, platonic love, and sexual love due to his unconventional thinking, core issues that stem from his repressed memories of a sexual violation, as well as his observations of the friends and family who surround him. He often struggles with the meaning of sexuality, and whether sexual activity equals love. His trouble with these definitions and associations is partially due to his unconventional view of love, sex and relationships. This can also stem from his family dynamics, as “we are each a product of the role we are given in the family-complex” (Tyson 13). Often the issues people have are results of how we might perceive our place in the family and how we react and/or fall into a self-definition. Charlie has a very unique family, but also not one that is very obvious or overly generous with love. Charlie remarks how he has only heard “I love you” four times in his entire life, three from his family. Since Charlie is so generous with his feelings, and wants everyone around him to be happy and feel loved, it may be difficult for him to not always have these feelings reciprocated. In the novel, Charlie sees his sister stay with a boyfriend after he hits her; he sees a rape at a party and a secret homosexual relationship, a part of human sexuality he has little knowledge of; and he also experiences an unrequited love and a girlfriend who desires validation as a sexual object. Each of these experiences and understandings, however destructive to his view of love and sex, develop Charlie's preoccupation with sex, as well as his anxieties surrounding it. Charlie is anxious in situations in which his core issues are in play. His unconscious knowledge of the reason why is what makes him

anxious. In this way, “anxiety always involves the return of the repressed: I am anxious because something I repressed--some painful or frightening or guilty experience--is resurfacing, and I want to keep it repressed” (Tyson 17). There are psychological differences in individuals and Charlie finds it difficult to strike a balance between destructive and nondestructive behavior, of which he is sometimes aware of, but cannot accurately describe the feelings he has or why he acted or responded in such a manner. His destructive behavior is caused by his own self-esteem issues and his instability in terms of his social behavior and frame of mind. He is never quite sure the best path to take nor the right decision to make. He wants so much to be honest and loyal and for the people around him to be happy, but he often finds himself alone, unhappy, and unable to figure out where he had gone wrong, or what he had misunderstood. Often this goes back to the “origins of the unconscious,” or the psychological history that begins in childhood experiences in the family, and the patterns of behavior that are “destructive in some way” (Tyson 12). These patterns of behavior reveal the existence of a significant psychological difficulty that has probably been influencing him for awhile without him knowing it. In Charlie’s case, this is very representative of the unconscious psychological issues he had not dealt with throughout most of the novel. Charlie says, in reference to his current girlfriend Mary Elizabeth, that, "sex things are weird, too. It's like after that first night, we have this pattern where we basically do what we did the first time" but "everything is rushed. Maybe this is the way things are supposed to be, but it doesn't feel right" (Chbosky 130). Charlie cites low self-esteem as the potential reason for Mary Elizabeth's desire for sexual attention, but "everything can't be self-esteem, can it" (Chbosky 130)? Tyson defines the core issue low self-esteem as “the belief that we are less worthy than other people and, therefore, don’t deserve attention, love, or any other

of life’s rewards. Indeed, we often believe we deserve to be punished by life in some way” (Tyson 16). Tyson also explains that these core-issues are often interrelated, or that having one can lead to having another. For example, Mary Elizabeth has low self-esteem, but she also has a fear of intimacy she replaces with meaningless sexual encounters as a desire to feel worthy and wanted. Charlie, who is already someone who thinks about things to the fullest extent and processes occurrences in very unique ways, finds love and sex confusing. Based solely on how the people around him interact in relationships, and how he is exposed to relationships, sexually and otherwise, Charlie sees love as simply wanting the other person to be happy. He tells Sam that he realized he loved her when he "thought that you being sad was much more important to me than Craig not being your boyfriend anymore. And if it meant that I would never get to think you that way, as long as you were happy, it was okay" (Chbosky 200). He has a constant need for everyone around him to be happy, even people in the world he doesn’t know. When picking out his music choices for Patrick’s present, Charlie writes that he “hopes the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope that they feel it’s enough. I really do because they made me happy” (Chbosky 63). Love to Charlie also comes in the form of friendship. Sam and Patrick are his good friends, friends who readers can see, through their observations and feelings for Charlie, truly care about him. However, because Charlie so desperately wants to make everyone happy he will do things he is uncomfortable doing. This relates back to his self-esteem issues, and the correlation with that issue to a fear of abandonment. Charlie, in some ways, feels unworthy of love, which leads him to expect he will be abandoned by the people he loves. For example, Charlie, in one instance allows Patrick to kiss him even when he didn't want him to. When asked about why he let Patrick kiss

him, he answers, "'I was just trying to be a friend'" (Chbosky 201). He wanted so badly for Patrick to remain his friend, that he allowed him to do something he was uncomfortable with. Sexual behavior is, in this novel, very much a product of the environment and culture Charlie observes and experiences, as well as from his lack of knowledge about relationships and sex, and all that is associated with the two. His friend Sam sees Charlie struggling with the rules of proper sexual conduct, stemming from his lack of knowledge of the rules of normal social conduct. Sam tells Charlie that "It's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone. [But] what if they need the arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love" (Chbosky 200). She tries to teach him about what girls want from boys and this leads to a sexual experience between the two, one Charlie puts an end to fairly quickly. He doesn't quite figure out immediately why he stopped their romantic and sexual encounter, but his repressed memories begin to slowly come back in the form of dreams. He starts to "feel like what [he] dreamt about [Aunt Helen] last night was true. And [his] psychiatrist's questions weren't weird after all" (Chbosky 205). Charlie, who readers begin to understand was sexually molested by his Aunt Helen, had repressed those uncomfortable memories, and only when a similar sexual encounter began to occur did those memories start to climb their way back to his conscious mind. Repression, as defined by Tyson, is representative of Charlie’s selective memory, how his memories are modified or almost completely forgotten so that he won’t feel overwhelmed by these memories (Tyson 15). As incestuously victimizing as this experience was as a young child, Charlie's conscious memories may allow him to be-

gin to deal with this trauma and to self-actualize to become a fuller individual. This may also give Charlie a potential for growth and to see beyond his circumstances and the lives happening immediately around him. “The acknowledgement and working through of repressed experiences and emotions” can help him to alter the effects of a wound only when we relive the wounding experience (Tyson 15). In terms of sex and love, Charlie had hardly been given many shining examples, but even so, he got to experience romantic thoughts and relationships, extreme emotional feelings, and successful friendships. He had for so long "repressed, or driven from [his] conscious mind, shameful thoughts that, then, become unconscious" (Billig 1). In the novel, repression became the 'centre' to which all the other elements of psychoanalytic thinking are related (Billig 1). Charlie understood attraction and had his own definitions of love, but he also had difficulty seeing the difference between love and friendship, and love and sex, matters that are very central to Charlie's thoughts and feelings, and to the novel's themes. Perhaps Charlie only needed to uncover the root of his misunderstandings and unique associations of sex, love and relationships to begin to heal and understand that there truly is nothing wrong with him. In some ways the reader is unable to find real conclusive evidence to the cause of Charlie’s myriad issues, but through his honest narration we see a study of the psychological and sexual human condition, as well as Charlie’s feelings about his own sexuality and relationships. Tyson poses the psychoanalytic question of "what conscious and unconscious meanings and purposes [do Charlie and other characters] express or enact in [their] sexuality?" (Tyson 24). Certain characters seem to use the love another has for them as a substitute or as a replacement for love from someone else; others use sex to validate themselves as a sexual object; others avoid sexual encounters altogether; and

still others feel uncomfortable expressing themselves in sexual ways. A few suggest the cause may be a "fear of intimacy--if I get too close to someone I will lose myself or be emotionally harmed" (Tyson 25). Tyson also explains that a fear of intimacy is often a “effective defense against learning about our own psychological wounds because it keeps us at an emotional distance” (Tyson 16). Although Charlie is very emotional and becomes close to certain people, he experiences this fear, either because he subconsciously or consciously feels he may be abandoned, like when Sam and Patrick go on vacation and he feels very alone, or because the anxiety he has surrounding his relationships makes him feel uncomfortable, like he is different from the people around him. He notices this because of how much he feels and the power and range of the emotions he shows, and how everyone notices him, but accurately defines his limited interaction and thoughtful nature as a “wallflower.”

Works Cited. Billig, Michael. Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: POCKET, 1999. Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today, A User-Friendly Guide. 2nd Ed. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2006.

Related Documents

Critical Paper Re Do
April 2020 43
Critical Paper
July 2020 63
Critical Paper
June 2020 65
April 2020 43
Fairy Tale Re-do
May 2020 4